Tuesday, October 31

A Reformation Day Conundrum: Christians Do Not Live Like They Say They Believe

According to this Kairos Journal news report, Boston University sociologist and agnostic, Alan Wolfe, makes the above claim in his book, The Transformation of American Religion: How We Actually Live Our Faith.

I happen to find Mr. Wolfe's findings terribly truthful. Therefore, there is no need for me to ramble on -- the good stuff is in this Kairos Journal article:

Sometimes Christians can “tune out” the criticisms of unbelievers simply because they are non-Christians. It is a dangerous habit to develop. Very often those outside the Christian community can offer a fresh criticism that the Church needs to hear. Take sociologist Alan Wolfe for example. He serves as the Director of the Boisi Center at Boston University and is a self-described agnostic. Wolfe has spent several years now studying the beliefs of evangelical churches to see if they truly live their lives in ways consistent with what they believe. His method of finding this out was deceptively simple. He went out across America and visited specifically evangelical churches. His observations are put forth with disturbing clarity in The Transformation of American Religion.

Wolfe addresses whether or not evangelicals pose any sort of threat to secularism. His conclusions can be paraphrased in the following way:

Dear fellow secular Americans, I know that you are concerned about the “Religious Right” and their influence in America. You are worried that they possess too much power, and that if they are successful, they will make America into some kind of neo-theocratic state in which religious beliefs stymie the advance of personal moral freedoms in areas such as abortion, religious pluralism, and the normalization of homosexuality in the culture. But fear not, for on the basis of my studies, I have found that while evangelicals claim to believe in absolute truth and an authoritative Bible which governs all of life, they do not live like they say they believe. They say they believe the Bible is the Word of God, but somehow, strangely, the Bible always says what satisfies their personal psychological and emotional needs. They say they worship an awesome God, but their deity is not one to be feared, because He is pretty much nonjudgmental, always quick to point out your good qualities, and will take whatever He can get in terms of your commitment to Him. He’s “God lite”—not the imposing deity before whom Israel trembled at the foot of Mt. Sinai, but the sort of deity who is always there to give you fresh supplies of upbeat daily therapy. And as for God’s people, well, they are really just like everyone else—no more holy or righteous than the rest of us. Put them in the crucible of character, and they’ll fold like a cheap suit. In sum, democracy is safe from religious zealots, because such people don’t really exist in large numbers. So relax, evangelical Christianity in America is as safe as milk.

Here’s how Alan Wolfe describes his project’s conclusions in his own words:

In every aspect of the religious life, American faith has met American culture–and American culture has triumphed. Whether or not the faithful ever were a people apart, they are so no longer; . . . Talk of hell, damnation, and even sin has been replaced by a nonjudgmental language of understanding and empathy. . . . far from living in a world elsewhere, the faithful in the United States are remarkably like everyone else.1

Despite what one might think, Wolfe is torn, and even wistful, about the results he uncovered. He writes: “[W]atching sermons reduced to PowerPoint presentations or listening to one easily forgettable praise song after another makes one long for an evangelical willing to stand up, Luther-like, and proclaim his opposition to the latest survey of evangelical taste.”2 So anxious is evangelicalism to “copy the culture of hotel chains and popular music that it loses what religious distinctiveness it once had.”3

What Wolfe describes is a massive credibility gap for professing Christians. From what he has seen so far, nothing yet has convinced him that what is happening in the evangelical churches is anything particularly authentic. Of course, Wolfe has not visited every church in America. But one wonders how long it would take for him to uncover the kind of countercultural churches which he originally set out to find.



Alan Wolfe, The Transformation of American Religion (New York: The Free Press, 2003), 3.


Ibid., 256.


Ibid., 256-257.

May God help us ...

(All italics and/or bold print is for the sake of emphasis, and is added by the author of this post.)

It's Final!

To all my family members, friends, and faithful long-time readers:

As of yesterday at 10:15 AM (EST) my wife, Traci, and I officially became parents. The judge signed off on the adoption and Tylar Scott Fields is our son - forever! We give God praise for answering years of prayer and bringing it all together in His time! After only five months of full-time parenting it is hard to imagine what life was like before Tylar (BT). It is also difficult to remember the months (for Traci it was years) of waiting and praying and trusting. It is the end of the adoption process and the official beginning of the parenting process. We thank God for the ending and look forward to what is to come (at least most of it). A great big THANK YOU to those of you who have been praying with us during this time.

Monday, October 30

A Real-Life Story of God's Conquering And Irresistable Grace

The water was cold in our church baptistery yesterday, but nothing could quench the Spirit's moving in the hearts of God's people. God Himself was in our midst, and although this is not an uncommon occurrence, the way He revealed His glory made a lasting impression upon all who were present.

At the conclusion of our fifth-Sunday, early-afternoon service, five new believers publicly declared their faith in Christ by entering the waters of baptism. And although this, too, is not an uncommon occurrence in our church, the story of a recently-converted electrician captivated our attention, bringing great fame to God's name.

Standing before us was a man who had, until several months ago, questioned the very existence of God. Overcome by emotion, this Southern Baptist preacher's kid publicly expressed the power of God's conquering and irresistable grace.

Here is his story -- the story he shared with our congregation yesterday afternoon:

I wrote this down because quite frankly, I do not like to be in front of crowds, and definitely hesitate to be the center of attention. This paper is necessary to organize my thoughts, as I have a tendency to rattle on when nervous and I will jump in at the middle of the story, proceed headlong to the end, and finish at the beginning, and you would be thoroughly confused.

Two weeks ago I spoke with the pastors and deacons and gave them an extremely condensed version of my testimony. But then I found out I had to give yet one more in front of the congregation. I thought long and hard about the testimony that I was to give and along with a prayer said to guide me, I poured out my feelings and left nothing unsaid.

I am the son of a small-church, Southern Baptist minister and his wonderful wife, my mother. My father ministered in many Missouri and southern Illinois Baptist churches. During this time, when I was ten, I came to my father late one night and asked for Jesus to come into my heart. He was joyful and beaming with pride, as one does, not only as a father but as a pastor or shepherd when one more sheep joins his flock. The following Sunday I was supposed to walk down the aisle and profess my faith in front of the congregation.

My nervousness and fear of being the center of attention took hold of me and I never made that walk. For whatever reason God decided to move our family, and times got rough. My father worked two other jobs besides ministering, and he struggled to make ends meet for us. And as some young kids are, I wanted a lot of things -- most of which we could not afford. I didn’t have name brand clothes, nice shoes, or my own room. Worst of all my dad was gone all the time -- working.

I look back and remember how angry I was with God, I could not understand how one of his shepherds could do so much in one day and then try to lead his flock, too. I was angry at our situation – mad that our family kept getting beat down. I said a lot of things to him that I am ashamed of, and finally turned my back on God.

My wife and friends can attest that I
took the philosophy that God simply did not exist. I would get into debates with those who believed and the discussion would lead to where there simply was no answer – due to both sides having limited knowledge of their belief. I took the philosophy that you make your own destiny, and you take responsibility for your own path.

Later I tried to put logic into God. I am an electrician by trade; I am good in math. I tear apart computers, and write programs. Logic came naturally to me and I understood it. God could not be justified by logic, so to me He simply could not be. Eventually though, I lost my conviction and started looking for answers.

Five years ago, my oldest daughter got involved in AWANA here at Delhi Baptist, and has been attending ever since along with my second daughter. One day it was "Bring your parents to church" day, so we decided to attend with her. I was simply amazed at how hospitable, friendly, caring, and family oriented that this church was, I had never seen such a close knit church before, such a family. So we started attending, albeit with a great deal of irregularity. One day, Pastor and his wife came over to our house and we had a nice discussion about Christ and the doorway to heaven -- which is Jesus Christ. His views and mine differed drastically, but I still came to church and listened attentively.

Then, once again, the rug was pulled out from under my family’s feet. Our renters had forced us back to our old home--which was virtually destroyed. A complete remodeling job was in store and lasted quite some time.
I was not angry with God. I couldn’t be -- I wasn’t sure if there was one. We allowed ourselves to be too busy for church -- remodeling and work consumed most of our time. And after the job was over, we simply allowed other excuses to keep us away. Oh, we had planned to return, and had been talking about it for several months, but something always seemed to come up.

Sunday August 20th, 2006 I woke up prior to the alarm going off – which is indeed a rare occasion for me!
Something (Someone!) nagged at me and I had an extreme desire to go to church. I awakened the family and informed them that we were going. I felt that there was something I wanted to hear, something I had been waiting a long time for -- an answer to an old question.

We arrived here at Delhi Baptist to a most gracious welcome back greeting from most everyone. As always, I listened attentively to Pastor when I heard him say, “You cannot put logic into God, you must have faith.” My mind went into a whirl, and the lights came on; someone had just knocked on my door. This was what I was supposed to hear – the answer to a question for one who stands to be extremely logical. I heard the trumpet call, I placed my faith in Jesus, and made that walk down the aisle that I was suppose to make 25 years ago.

Today, I thank him.
There’s not one day that goes by that I don’t thank him for not giving up and turning his back on me. Instead He has loved me, dying on Calvary’s cross for my sins.

I now reflect back on my life with Jesus there to light my way.
Things have become clearer; issues I did not understand then are now answered. I don’t believe I was very grateful for what I did receive, even though my dad struggled to give me more that he could afford. But we had LOVE, and we expressed our love to each other regularly. Here is a saying I ran across: “A rich person is not who has the most, but who needs the least”. Back then, with my selfish nature, I had much – yet I was poor. Today I have the love of both my families both physical and spiritual, and I have Christ as my Savior, and I need nothing else – I AM FILTHY RICH!

Thank you, Jesus!

And thank you, Ramon, for reminding us all of God's conquering and irresistable grace. We at Delhi Baptist Church (and The World From Our Window) praise God because of you!

P. S. -- Ramon's parents were present to hear their son's testimony, and to see him follow his Lord in baptism!

Friday, October 27

We Are THE CHAMPIONS ... On My 35th Birthday!!!

The St. Louis Cardinals do it again (for the 10th time) ... and on my birthday, nonetheless!!!!

The over-looked, under-appreciated, and written-off Redbirds prove again that TEAMWORK, HUSTLE, and GRIT win championships.

This team may not be filled with great baseball players, but it is filled with great guys! And it's great to see the good guys win!





P. S. -- No need to talk smack now -- it's over baby -- and we win!!!!

How To Save Your Marriage, Family, and Church From Destruction

A week or so ago, I posted a piece entitled "How To Destroy Your Marriage, Family, and Church." If you have yet to read the post, I would encourage you to do so [click here].

I believe many of the problems in relationships and/or churches are rooted in a distrust and suspicion of God-ordained leadership and authority. In my aforementioned post, I detailed the reasons I believe we are prone to distrusting God-ordained authority and leadership.

Today my purpose is to share what, from my perspective, will save our marriages, families, and churches from destruction -- even though, as sinners, we are prone to distrust and suspicion of those in positions of leadership and authority.

So what will save our marriages, families, and churches from going BOOM because of suspicion and distrust?

1) A willingness to practice open and honest communication. We live in a society characterized by secrecy. People go to great lengths and take great pains to conceal their past, their plans, and their motives. This societal practice tends to breed (as I discussed in the previous post) conspiracy theories and suspicion when it comes to positions of leadership and authority.

The biblical antidote to suspicion and distrust is open and honest communication. This was the consistent practice of Nehemiah -- one of the Bible's great leaders. Nehemiah was constantly communicating: with his brothers (1:2-3), with God (1:4-11), the king (2:1-7) and the governors (2:9), and with the people (1:17-20). Open and honest communication was key in the rebuilding of Jerusalem's walls: when problems arose, they were addressed publicly (4:6-7); when encouragement was necessary, the people were encouraged publicly. Nehemiah's open and honest communication promoted an environment of transparancy and authenticity -- so much so that when certain people caught wind of a plot to stop the work, they immediately alerted their leader. The result? The work continued until the wall was completed in fifty-two days.

Nehemiah-like leaders who practice and promote open and honest communication build trust and confidence in their followers. On the other hand, leaders and authorities who fail to communicate openly and honestly appear to be concealing something (even when they may not be doing so). This is why elected public servants make full financial disclosures -- to suppress the idea they are hiding something.

A husband who communicates openly and honestly with his wife gains her confidence. A parent who dialogues with the children gains their trust. And a pastor who is transparant and authentic before his congregation gains their loyalty and allegiance.

Jay Adams states in his must-read book, Christian Living In The Home that "vital Christian communication is the basic skill needed to establish and maintain sound relationships." (pg. 27) He proceeds to describe four indespensible rules of God-honoring, confidence-building communication:

> Be honest: Ephesians 4:25

> Keep current: Ephesians 4:26

> Attack the problem, not the person: Ephesians 4:29

> Act, don't react: Ephesians 4:26, 32
If we will make open and honest communication a practice in our marriages, homes, and churches, we will take a ginourmous step toward promoting an environment of trust and confidence and loyalty. And God will be glorified in the unity of his people!

2) A willingness to ask for clarification. Communication takes work ... and yet, even when we work hard at it, we are prone to miscommunication. And here's why: what the communicator is intending to communicate is miscommunicated if it is misunderstood. That may seem like a bunch of gobbledygook, so allow me to translate for fear of being misunderstood!

Not too long ago, in a meeting, I made a rather impassioned plea concerning the need for open and honest communication among us. A couple of months later while conversing with someone who was not even present at the meeting, I was informed that my comments were misunderstood (and therefore misinterpreted). Here is the problem ... the person who misunderstood my comments never asked for a clarification; and a failure to do so has led to further misunderstandings and hurt feelings.

One reason I enjoy life with my children is that they are not afraid to ask for clarification. If they have a question about what was said, they ask. And in doing so they are informing me that I have failed to effectively communicate with them. That's transparancy ... that's authenticity ... and that's clarity; and because of this, there is rarely any misunderstandings between my children and myself.

Let me encourage you to be transparent in your relationships with your spouse, children, and pastor. If there is a possibility you are misunderstanding what is being communicated, ask for clarification. Effective communication is not only the responsibility of the speaker, it is also the responsibility of the hearer. The vast majority of marital, parental, and pastoral misunderstandings could be alleviated if we would simply ask for clarification!

3) A willingness to practice biblical confrontation. Let's face it: God-ordained leaders fail, and failure breeds distrust and suspicion. God-ordained authorities have abused power, influence, and position. Husbands have cheated on their wives (physically or mentally); parents have abused their children; and pastors have shamed the name and cause of Christ.

No leader is totally above reproach because every leader is a sinner -- even a pastor. Because every leader is a sinner, and because every leader will fail, leaders need the help and encouragement of counselors.

Biblically speaking, behind every good leader were good counselors. Paul had Barnabus and Silas. Nehemiah had his governors. David had Nathan.

A year had passed in David's life since he had murdered Uriah in an attempt to cover up his adulterous fling with Bathsheeba. A year of silence in David's life ... a year wrapped in the misery of guilt and secrecy. A year in which David felt his bones breaking from the arrows of God's chastening (Psalm 38). And then Nathan showed up, and confronted David with his sin.

Leaders need the accountability of counselors. King Solomon, in his vast wisdom, understood how dangerous unaccountable, renegade leadership can be: "Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety." (Proverbs 11:14, ESV)

As a husband, God has graciously gifted me with a counselor in my wife; as a father, God has granted me three children to whom I am accountable; and as a pastor, God has surrounded me with deacons, friends, and a congregation who are my "counselors." When I fail, I need to be confronted. And when I fall, I need to be comforted.

Good, trustworthy leaders will surround themselves with good counselors; counselors who know when to confront and when to comfort. Doing so not only protects my marriage, family, and ministry, it also builds trust and confidence in those I am leading.

In a world of suspicion and secrecy, Christians are called to be different and distinct. We are called to live lives of transparancy and accountability. When leaders are willing to do so, they inspire confidence in those who follow. When followers are willing to do so, they will shine as lights in a world of darkness, conspiracy, and suspicion.

Let's build Christ-honoring relationships upon the foundations of honesty, authenticity, and transparency. In other words, let's let our little light shine!

Thursday, October 26

Richard Sibbes is MY HOMEBOY!

Richard Sibbes is My Homeboy Vote Now: Homeboy T-shirt Contest. "So here's how the contest works: You go visit the contest shop, and you buy the deeply-discounted t-shirt you think has the best obscure hero of the faith. We run the shop through Reformation Day (October 31), and on the morning of November 1, I run the sales report for the shop. The design which sold the most UNITS wins the prize I have outlined someplace in this post" (Frank Turk).

My Reformed theologian was Richard Sibbes. So all my faithful readers (the three or four of you out there) go and buy some Sibbes' gear so I can win a free t-shirt, mug, and print. I'll be forever be indebted if you do!

Soli Deo Gloria

What Do We Do With "The Baby"?

You might have heard the saying, "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water." In this case Rick Warren is "the baby". In response to my latest post praising Rick Warren for his handling of his finances I have been highly encouraged to clarify my position on Rick Warren's theology, philosophy and methodology.

My clarification: I don't believe Rick Warren is a heretic or an apostate. I do believe he is a Christian pastor seeking do what he believes is right. I don't agree with his man-centered, market-driven, seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven theology and philosophy. In many of the sermons I have personally heard his preaching of the gospel is shallow. He also appears to be leaning toward universalism in some of his recent interviews. There is much to be concerned about with Rick Warren.

My concern: So what do we do with "the baby"? Do we throw him out with the bath water? Do we leave him in the bath? Or do we take extreme measures and say that because he likes to play in dirty bath water we should end his life? In the last two weeks I have been accused of "constantly deriding Warren" and now perhaps of promoting his theology. I take exception with anyone who thinks I am targeting or attacking Rick Warren. I believe there is biblical warrant and mandate for critiquing what a Bible teacher or pastor has written or spoken publicly. I do criticize Rick Warren on different issues but I never try to assume his motives or attack his character. I also take exception with anyone who would read into what I say about Rick Warren's character and assume that all of a sudden I am promoting his theology. If I have no problem criticizing his teaching why should I have a problem praising his character? Are we to only point out the negatives about others without being even-handed in pointing out the positives? I vehemently disagree with the Pope's theology even to the point of calling him an apostate, but can't I praise him for his stand on abortion, euthanasia, and traditional marriage? Of course there are millions of people who stand with the Pope on these very same issues, but none do it in such a public or influential manner. I would publicly criticize him for all he does wrong. Can't I publicly praise him for all he does right? If I remember right some evangelicals were even defending the Pope's recent comments on Islam. Were they right for defending an apostate on anything? Is ANY praise of someone a blanket endorsement? There are thousands of pastors who are above reproach and sacrificial in their finances, but none that are as public a figure as Rick Warren and none that I personally criticize so frequently. If I had heard John Piper say these same things I would have been quick to praise him and no one would have wondered if I was endorsing his view on particular redemption. (You can read what I think about that elsewhere.) Is any endorsement of Rick Warren on anything anathema? Have we decided to kill "the baby"?

John Piper Is Bad ... Really Bad

Only from the mouth of a Calvinist!


John Bunyan on the Hardness of the Christian Life

These are Bunyan's words from the last book he took to the publisher, The Excellency of a Broken Heart:

"Conversion is not the smooth, easy-going process some men seem to think .... It is wounding work, of course, this breaking of the hearts, but without wounding there is no saving .... Where there is grafting there is cutting, the scion must be let in with a wound; to stick it on the outside or to tie it on with a string would be of no use. Heart must be set to heart and back to back, or there will be no sap from root to branch, and this I say, must be done by a wound."
In his book, Seasonable Counsel, Advice to Sufferers, Bunyan states:
"It is the will of God, that they that go to heaven should go thither hardly or with difficulty. The righteous shall scarecely be saved. That is, they shall, but yet with great difficulty, that it may be the sweeter."
God help us to see the painful realities of life as John Bunyan saw them -- preparing in us an "eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison." (2 Corinthians 4:17, ESV)

**These quotes are taken from the book I am currently reading by John Piper, The Hidden Smile of God: The Fruit of Affliction in the Lives of John Bunyan, William Cowper, and David Brainerd.

Wednesday, October 25

Book Review: Suffering and the Sovereignty of God

I had listened to the conference audios last fall and so knew some of what to expect when coming to the book. But books are always different from speeches. There is just a different flavor to the way the message is communicated by preaching and then by the pen.

John Piper really lays the ground work for the entire book with his opening two chapters ("Suffering and the Sovereignty of God: Ten Aspects of God's Sovereignty Over Suffering and Satan's Hand in it" and "The Suffering of Christ and the Sovereignty of God.").

Piper opens the latter chapter by saying,

I believe the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of the grace of God. I might have said more simply that the entire universe exists to display the greatness of the glory of God. That would be true. But the Bible is more specific. The glory of God shines most brightly, most fully, most beautifully in the manifestation of the glory of his grace. Therefore, this is the ultimate aim and the final explanation of all things—including suffering . . . . Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came in the flesh to suffer and die and by that suffering and death to save undeserving sinners like you and me. (81-82)
The rest of the chapter goes on to explain how because Christ suffered bringing God maximum glory, God is glorified when Christ overcomes the suffering in our own life. He then follows by providing a Scriptural basis for this conclusion (82-85).

He then finishes off by explaining what Christ achieved through suffering:
1. Christ absorbed the wrath of God on our behalf--and He did it by suffering.
2 . Christ bore our sins and Purchased our Forgiveness--and He did it by suffering.
3 . Christ provided a perfect righteousness for us that becomes ours in Him--and He did it by suffering.
4 . Christ defeated death--and He did it by suffering.
5 . He disarmed Satan--and He did it by suffering.
6 . Christ purchased perfect final healing for all his people--and He did it by suffering.
7 . Christ will bring us finally to God--and He did it by suffering.
Also, my favorites message from the conference and my favorite chapter in this book is Steve Saints. The story of his daughter grips me every time I read it and brings tears to my eyes. I'm not going to really comment, but here is the passage below.
Later, I passed Stephenie in the hall, and she just leaned on me and said, “Pop, I love you.” I thought: God, just beam me up right now. Let’s go at the peak. Does it get any better than this? All of our children are following you, and Stephenie is home. And Ginny and I—we’ve had a twenty-seven-year honeymoon. Let’s just quit right now.

A while later, Ginny said, “Steve, Stephenie’s back in her room. Let’s go back and be with her.” So we ditched everyone else and went back. Stephenie had a headache and asked me to pray for her. Ginny sat on the bed and held Stephenie, and I put my arms around those two girls whom I loved with all my heart, and I started praying.

While I was praying, Stephenie had a massive cerebral hemorrhage. We rushed to the hospital. I rode in the ambulance while our son Jaime and Ginny and Mincaye followed us in the car. Grandfather Mincaye had never seen this type of vehicle with the flashing lights, didn’t understand why strangers had rushed into the house and grabbed Stephenie and hurried off with her. Now he saw her at the hospital, lying on a gurney with a tube down her throat and needles in her arm, and he grabbed me and said, “Who did this to her?” And I saw a look on his face that I’d seen before, and I knew that he’d be willing to kill again to save this granddaughter whom he loved.

I didn’t know what to say. “I don’t know, Mincaye. Nobody is doing this.”

And just like that, this savage from the jungles grabbed me again and said, “Babae, don’t you see?”

No, I didn’t see. My heart was absolutely tearing apart; I didn’t know what was going on.

He said, “Babae, Babae, now I see it well. Don’t you see? God himself is doing this.”

And I thought, what are you saying?

Mincaye started reaching out to all the people in the emergency room, saying, “People, people, don’t you see? God, loving Star, he’s taking her to live with him.” And he said, “Look at me, I’m an old man; pretty soon I’m going to die too, and I’m going there.” Then he said, with a pleading look on his face, “Please, please, won’t you follow God’s trail, too? Coming to God’s place, Star and I will be waiting there to welcome you.” (119-120)
Joni Eareckson Tada wrote a helpful chapter entitled, "Hope the Best of All Things." I remember listening to this talk and thinking, "Wow, how little your problems really are." To be honest I had one of those days today where my heart was saddened and the Lord seemed far. Again this chapter made me realize how close God really is to me. She weaves in and out of the story this line from The Shawshank Redemption, " 'Red, never forget. Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things. And no good thing ever dies' " (192). As Christians Joni encourages us to hope in seeing our God face to face someday.

Joni relates the misery and depression she felt after being paralyzed. She would intentionally grunt at people and let food drool down the side of her mouth. She makes this penetrating statement about her sin and mine. "You know what it’s like when you make sin your own. You housebreak it. You domesticate it. You shield it from the Spirit’s scrutiny. I did not want to let go of the sick, strange comfort of my own misery" (193).

Do you know that sin? The one we protect from God? The one that's not so bad?

I would definitely say purchase the book but also don't forget about the audio. The book costs, but the audio is free. Also, one helpful thing that is in this book that I don't believe was in the last conference book (Sex and the Supremacy of Christ) is the transcribed interview with Justin Taylor and John Piper. That was a great idea.

Soli Deo Gloria

Rick Warren Podcast: Pleasantly Surprised

Here at the World From Our Window you will find a vast number of posts critiquing Rick Warren and the Purpose Driven philosophy. Most of those posts are critical of Warren's theology, philosophy and methodology. With that being said, I (speaking for myself alone) believe Rick Warren is a Christian who is doing what he believes God wants him to do. I believe he sincerely desires to please and obey God. I believe he sincerely wants to help people and is concerned for pastors and the state of The Church. While we usually take every opportunity to share the negatives I thought I might share a couple of positives.

Rick was interviewed in a recent podcast from Catalyst Space. Much of what was shared is well known, but a few things I didn't know and you might not know. You can listen to the entire podcast here. I will give a brief rundown on the pleasant surprises that I heard.

Pleasant Surprise #1: He rejects the corporate model.

Pleasant Surprise #2: The royalties he received from The Purpose Driven Life hasn't changed his lifestyle one bit. He lives in the same house he has lived in for the past fourteen years. He drives a six-year-old Ford. Four years ago he stopped taking a salary. He paid back all the salary that Saddleback had paid him in the past. He says, "I knew God was putting me in the spotlight and I just wanted to be above reproach. I didn't want anybody ever thinking I do this for money."

Pleasant Surprise #3: "I don't ever take an honorarium for anything I do."

Pleasant Surprise #4: "We [he and his wife] became reverse tithers...We give away 90% and live on 10%."

I think that Rick gives us a tremendous example of how pastors are to handle their finances so that they will be above reproach. So many pastors bow down to the master of money. The world is looking for hypocrisy among church leaders and Rick was sensitive enough to this that he planned ahead. And because he did he continues to have a very positive influence on our world. We have had enough well-known Christian leaders fall that I pray Rick Warren will continue to remain faithful, pure and above reproach! I pray that Saddleback will continue to reach thousands of unsaved people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

There are a number of things in this podcast that you might not agree with and you will want to critique. That is not the intent of this post and I will not respond to any comments concerning the things you disagree with Rick about.

A Homeschooling Funny ...

Last week, during the morning homeschooling session, our daughter and son had the following conversation while Mom was teaching:

Noah: "Elizabeth, you had better listen to Mommy, and learn your multiplication facts."

Elizabeth: "You are not my teacher."

Noah: "No, but if you don't learn your facts, you are going to go to the principal ... whose name is Daddy!"

Ah ... the joys (and funnies) of homeschooling!

Tuesday, October 24

The Atonement Question: For Calvinists And Arminians, It All Comes Down To This

As Mathew begins examining the Calvinistic doctrine of so-called Limited Atonement, I am convinced it all boils down to a single question (which I addressed several months ago here at The World From Our Window):

Why are unbelievers in hell?

1) People are condemned to hell for unbelief (this is likely the answer of an Arminian and/or unlimited atonement proponent). They point to John 3:18 as proof of their position.

2) People are condemned to hell for their sins (this is likely the answer of a Calvinist and/or limited atonement proponent). They point to Romans 5:16, 18 & Romans 6:23 as proof of their position.

The problem with the first answer is that it fails to address the truth that unbelief is not a morally neutral choice. Unbelief is sin. God's Word teaches that it is sin that condemns to an individual to hell. Hell is a place of intense and infinite suffering due to the inability of its residents to pay the infinite price for their sin (which Christ paid on behalf of His elect).

In fact, unbelief is the most damning of all sins. And if Jesus died for all sins of all people, including the sin of unbelief, all are saved, and we are back to universalism. This teaching prompted Puritan theologian and pastor, John Owen, to pen a treatise entitled The Death of Death in the Death of Christ. Owen puts the "atonement options" like this:

"God imposed his wrath due unto, and Christ underwent the pains of hell for,
either all the sins of all men,
or all the sins of some men,
or some sins of all men.
If the last, some sins of all men, then have all men some sins to answer for, and so shall no man be saved."
According to Owen, we must affirm the second option, "that Christ in their stead and room suffered for all the sins of all the elect in the world."

But what about the first option? Many today believe that Christ died for all the sins of all men but that all men will not believe. Owen says,
"Why are not all free from the punishment of all their sins? You will say, "Because of their unbelief; the will not believe." But this unbelief, is it a sin, or not? If not, why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ underwent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why should they be punished for it? If it be, then Christ undersent the punishment due to it, or not. If so, then why must that hinder them more than their other sins for which he died from partaking the fruit of his death? If he did not, then did he not die for all their sins? Let them choose which part they will."
Boice and Ryken (in The Doctrines of Grace) sum up Owen's logic by stating,
"If Jesus died for all the sins of all men, unbelief included, then all are saved, which the Bible denies. If he died for all the sins of all men, unbelief excluded then he did not die for all the sins of anybody and all must be condemned. There is no other position, save that he died for the sin of his elect people only....consider Romans 8:28-32,
We know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified. What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all--how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?
In this passage, those who have been foreknown, predestined, called, justified, and glorified are also those for whom Christ died. They are those who have been chosen by God to belong to Jesus Christ before the foundation of the world."
Again, I'm waiting to hear from those who subscribe to an unlimited atonement. I'm waiting to hear your answers to questions like...

Did Christ die for the sin of unbelief of those in hell?

Will a righteous God punish a sinner whose price has been paid in full?

If people are not in hell as a result of their sins, why are they there? And if they are not there because of their sinful choices and actions, why are they judged "according to their works" (Revelation 20:12-13)?

Did Christ's death cover the sins of those He never intended to save; or, did God intending to save all, provide a universal atonement?

Now for an open, Christ-exalting discussion! Let's sharpen one another ... and let the iron shavings fly!

Monday, October 23

Elaboration on the "Target Audience" Philosophy

This will be my response to the comments on my recent post concerning The Fallacy of the "Target Audience". Admittedly this wasn't my most scholarly work. I gave a sarcastic rant and it didn't work very well. I should have known that the readers at The World From Our Window would expect more. I have taken your constructive criticisms to heart and I will attempt to have a more serious critique of the "Target Audience" philosophy.

I quoted extensively from Rethinking The Church written by James Emery White. I didn't cite my source because I don't recommend the book and because I didn't want this post to be about the book, but about this one philosophy that a number of "evangelicals" hold to. I quoted from page 31 under the heading: Foundational Question #3: Whom Are We Trying to Reach for Christ? The only positive thing I will say about this book is that it was short. Other than that it is just a recap of Market-Driven/Church-Growth philosophy.

I am not against a thorough understanding of your audience. I do believe that this point is overemphasized by many! It shouldn't be forgotten, nor should it be overemphasized. We need to have an understanding of our culture and the people in it. I am not against doing demographic studies and understanding the general make-up of your community. I am not against a church making a concerted effort to target a forgotten segment of society such as indie-rockers or the homeless. In an effort to reach people with the gospel we do need to understand their unique concerns and unique culture. I believe John Piper said it best in A Conversation With the Pastors at the 2006 Desiring God Conference. [I will be paraphrasing to the best of my ability. The transcript is not available at this time.]

Justin Taylor asked John Piper, "How do you stay relevant by avoiding, by and large, pop culture?" Piper answered, "I think there are common denominators in human beings that are so massive that one can get a lot of mileage out of feeling them very strongly. Like everybody is going to die. You should try feeling that sometime. Everybody loves authenticity. Try feeling that. People generally like to be held in suspense and then something solved. I read the newspaper and listen a little bit to NPR. I look at advertisers. I think they are the ones that study human beings and I try to read off what they are doing there. But mainly I'm trying to understand how John Piper ticks and go deep with my own heart, struggles, fears, guilt and pride. Then figure out how to work on that and then tell others from the Bible how they can work on that. There's enough connection to be of some use. But I don't tend to think the way Mark (Driscoll) does. I don't think in terms of target populations and how to adjust in order to connect there. I'm not as much of a missionary as he is I guess."
Aren't there enough common denominators among ALL people of every demographic, culture and subculture that we can confidently take the gospel to them? Do I really have to be that great a student of culture, even subcultures, to be able to effectively share the good news of Jesus Christ? Don't ALL people have the same basic needs, struggles and fears?

Of course no church can be "all things to all people". Of course no church is not able to reach every unsaved person in their town, city, or county. No church can uniquely design services or ministries to reach or minister to every demographic and subculture in any one place! I think it is insane to think you can and even more insane to try! The problem is when we PICK one demographic and then tailor our church to reach them specifically. We become a "Boomer Church" or an "Indie-Rocker Church". We become so specialized that we might actually alienate anyone who isn't THE target. Usually market-driven churches pick a white, middle class, suburban target. That is why I used the homeless illustration in my last post. I don't know of one church that has picked the homeless as THE target for their church. Sure there are churches targeting the homeless as a group that needs to be reached, but that is NOT the "target audience" philosophy. They say choose who you want to reach and focus your efforts completely on them. In essence it is more about choosing who you won't reach!

In Fort Myers, Florida, where I pastor, a demographic study would show that the largest demographic is 50 years old, white, upper middle class, English speaking people. Therefore if I want to reach the MOST people that is the group I would target. This would focus my efforts and help me determine what I would and wouldn't do. The "target audience" philosophy works great in Fort Myers. In fact we have at least two churches that have over three thousand people attending weekly! But what about the cowboys, what about the Hispanics, what about the Haitians, what about the elderly, what about Gen-X? Who will reach them? The "target audience" philosophy says that we need a separate church for EVERY separate demographic, culture and subculture. We need a "Builder Church", a "Buster Church", a "Gen-X Church", a "Upper-Class Church", a "Middle-Class Church", a "Lower-Class Church", a "White Church", a "Black Church", a "Hispanic Church", a "Russian Church", etc. And what about the "Lower-Class, Hispanic, Gen-X church"? Who will reach that subculture? Does this philosophy sound biblical or practical to you?

I believe that biblically it is best to seek to have a church that reflects your community as a WHOLE! This is NOT practical and it is very difficult. If Fort Myers, Florida, is 33% elderly, 15% Hispanic, and 22% poor, than we should seek to reflect our community in our church. We must seek to reach ALL people! Where is the power of God and the gospel in a community where everyone is alike?

I am leaving this morning for a conference and I won't be able to respond to comments until Tuesday afternoon. Please comment. I will respond as soon as possible.

Sunday, October 22

The Doctrine of Particular Redemption: "World Means World" | Part 1

This post is inspired by Wayne Leman from Better Bibles Blog. In addition to my series on the Holy Spirit, I'm going to start a series defending the doctrine of particular redemption. I'll address some of the common "problem" passages and some of the common arguments (i.e., world always means every individual who ever lived; "all means all!" [usually said with a lot of gusto and triumphantly . . . as if this settled the debate]). Another common trumpet sounded is that this doctrine has no Biblical basis. Well, Lord willing, I will attempt to provide some foundation from the Scriptures for this doctrine.

Merriam-Webster's Dictionary gives 14 entries for the word world. Notice the idea of every single individual who ever lived during all of history is conspicuously missing:

Main Entry: world
Pronunciation: 'w&r(-&)ld
Function: noun
Etymology: Middle English, from Old English woruld human existence, this world, age (akin to Old High German weralt age, world); akin to Old English wer man, eald old -- more at VIRILE, OLD
1 a : the earthly state of human existence b : life after death -- used with a qualifier wolrd>
2 : the earth with its inhabitants and all things upon it
3 : individual course of life : AREER
4 : the inhabitants of the earth : the human race
5 a : the concerns of the earth and its affairs as distinguished from heaven and the life to come b : secular affairs
6 : the system of created things : UNIVERSE
7 a : a division or generation of the inhabitants of the earth distinguished by living together at the same place or at the same time world> b : a distinctive class of persons or their sphere of interest or activity world> world>
8 : human society world>
9 : a part or section of the earth that is a separate independent unit
10 : the sphere or scene of one's life and action 11 : an indefinite multitude or a great quantity or distance world>
12 : the whole body of living persons :
PUBLIC world>
13 : KINGDOM 5 world>
14 : a celestial body (as a planet)
- for all the world : in every way: EXACTLY
- in the world : among innumerable possibilities : EVER -- used as an intensive
- out of this world : of extraordinary excellence : SUPERB

Wayne Leman references the American Heritage Dictionary so you may want to look at its entries. For the most part the definitions are the same. The closest meaning to "world means all individuals" is entry 2 and 4.

I want to point out one last thing. The argument is that "world" means everyone, in the sense of every individual who ever lived. I might concede that "world" might mean every individual on earth, BUT I don't see any indication that it has a past connotation (i.e., who ever lived). This point ruins the whole universal redemption argument. God must redeem make possible redemption for every individual who ever lived past, present, & future if the argument will stand. If any individual is left out then the argument collapses. All that to say, the argument for universal redemption does not have as strong a foundation lexically as its proponets would wish.
When discussing this point those who hold this position typically always start with this lexical argument as their foundation against particular redemption (i.e., actual redemption). However, the only way this argument holds its ground is if you completely ignore the context of the way the word "world" is used and argue meaning in a vacuum (i.e., "world" always mean every individual who ever lived in history)--which is patently bad exegesis.

In my next post, I want to examine the NT passages which employ this word in the context of redemption. I'll focus on context, usage, & lexically possiblities for the word kosmos.

Clarification: This post is only dealing with the definition of the word world (i.e., lexically what it can mean). What I am arguing against is simple. I run across a lot of people who hold to universal redemption and the main argument I get is this, "Look the passage says 'world.' How can you argue with that? If [insert writer's name] says world, he means world!" But lexically the word "world" does not have that meaning. It's the context and surrounding qualifiers which provide the key. I will attempt to interact with the different interpretation of those who hold to universal redemption and provide a sound exegetical response in future posts.

Soli Deo Gloria

Friday, October 20

The Fallacy of the "Target Audience"

As I continue my reading assignment I am reading a number of books that I had purchased a long time ago, but never read. (That is a constant theme of my life - so many books, so little time.) One book I read last week really got me fired up. This book was written in 1997 by a leading evangelical and megachurch pastor. I won't tell you the title or author since I don't recommend this book. I am not criticizing this book or author in particular. I am criticizing the CEO and business approach to pastoral and church ministry. There have been a number of good books written critiquing the business model of church leadership and ministry. I will not take the time to do that. I just want to vent a little concerning the seeming universal and unconditional acceptance of the idea of a target audience. [Other's quotes will be in blue and my quotes will be in red.]

This author asks the question: Whom Are We Trying to Reach for Christ? You think that would have an easy answer - the lost! His answer:

"The church becomes more effective as it clearly defines whom it is trying to reach. It is common in the business world today to talk of market segmentation, niche marketing, and selective advertising. (But we are not a business we are the Body of Christ!) As researchers Michael Treacy and Fred Wiersema have noted, 'all things to all customers' is as outdated as a manual typewriter. Many congregations have wisely and appropriately taken note of this, for no single church can possibly reach out with equal effectiveness to every conceivable person. (Duh! Of course no one church will reach the world by itself!) The more focused a church is on whom it is trying to reach the more effective it will be at reaching them. Methodist strategic planner Jack Heacock says, 'In the past, a lot of Methodist pastors were trying to be like the Sears Roebuck catalog, all things to all people. But in the greatest mail-order period in history, that catalog went out of business. In targeting a church's efforts you have to get very clear on whom you want to try and reach.' (Great business illustration, but does it really correlate to the church? And is it about whom I want to reach or whom Christ wants me to reach?) It is no wonder that from the earliest days of the church as recorded in the New Testament, it has seemed to please the Holy Spirit to birth a wide variety of churches in order to reach a wide variety of people. (Is he trying to say that within specific geographic locations that there were different churches being planted to reach different segments of society? That is not the biblical record! The Jews and Gentiles were together in a specific geographic location. If his point was legitimate this would have been the first and most obvious strategy of separation! Christ didn't want a church divided, but a church united!) Churches, therefore are wise to examine such issues as geographic location, demographics, and culture. (Of course, but how does that translate into a target audience?)

The implications of such an understanding are far-reaching. (Oh yes they are!) Once a church knows whom it is trying to reach it gains enormous insight into how to go about achieving its purposes and mission. As anyone in the marketplace will tell you, once you know who your customer is (The lost are not customers!), you know what it is you are offering (salvation), whom you are offering it to (unsaved), how you should go about offering it (personal and corporate witnessing through sharing the good news of the gospel of Christ), and where you should offer it to them (anywhere and everywhere). Knowing whom it is you are trying to reach affects not only what you do but how you do it."

Why do we make evangelism so difficult? Why must we go to the business world to find techniques on how to share the gospel? We are not marketing a new product! We are not targeting customers! We are not trying to develop a market share! Why are there more business quotes than Scriptural references in most church how-to books? It appears that most pastors have completely accepted the business model as normative. It seems that it might be better for a pastor to have a business degree than a theological degree.

Even Rick Warren in a recent podcast for the Catalyst website said that he didn't like a CEO/business approach to church, yet he was the first author I ever read that promoted the target audience idea. Chapter 9 of Purpose Driven Church is entitled - Who Is Your Target? Rick writes, "In practice there is not a local church anywhere that can reach everybody. Because human beings are so different, no single church can possibly reach everyone. That's why we need all kinds of churches. Together we can accomplish what no single congregation, strategy, or style can accomplish by itself...For your church to be most effective in evangelism you must decide on a target. Discover what types of people live in your area, decide which of those groups your church is best equipped to reach, and then discover which styles of evangelism best match your target."

It sounds like this other author is mimicking Rick Warren's Purpose Driven philosophy. I don't mean to pick on Rick Warren. I'm sure he isn't the originator of this idea. Lyle Schaller, Donald McGavran and C. Peter Wagner have been promoting the business model of church leadership for decades. The "target audience" philosophy is just an outgrowth of the church growth model.

This whole idea of target audience works real well when the type of person you decide to reach just happens to be in his "late thirties or early forties. He has a college degree and may have an advanced degree. He's either a professional, a manager, or a successful entrepreneur. [Saddleback] Sam is among the most affluent of Americans." Wouldn't you want a church full of people like that? I can't believe Saddleback Church sacrificed so greatly to target that particular group! (I just couldn't help the sarcasm!) Why is it that most of the churches with a target audience happen to be in the suburbs targeting the predominately white, middle-class? Has anyone ever heard of a church targeting the poor, the felons, the single moms, the widows, the homosexual (discounting the Universalist Unitarians) or the homeless?

Our church is uniquely called by God to reach the homeless. Our target is Homeless Homer. He is single and without children. He is not well-educated. He has no job. He has no place to live. Finding food and shelter are high priorities for him. He'd be happy being in any kind of group that would love him. He is skeptical of "organized" anything. He doesn't have a particular musical preference. He knows life used to be better and hopes to enjoy it more in the future. He is mostly dissatisfied with his station in life. He prefers the casual and informal over the formal. He has all kinds of time but is short on money.

Now that we have focused our target and determined his characteristics how would you go about reaching Homeless Homer? What strategies would you use? What message would you share with him? Where would you share it? The whole Purpose Driven philosophy based on God's wonderful plan for giving you meaning and purpose kind of goes down the drain with this target audience. The "target audience" strategy seems to lack universal application and it is seldom used as a principle to reach anyone other than the people we want to reach. Usually they are the group of people most like us or the group of people we would most like to be.

Thursday, October 19


Another World Series here in St. Louis ... 'nuff said.


More salt in the hundred-year-wounds of those hapless cubs fans ...

Book Review: "The Master's Plan for the Church"

I'm sure that many of you have been anxiously waiting for me to continue my series on "Re-Programming the Church" which was to follow-up my much debated series on "De-Programming the Church". Shortly after posting part 1 of the Re-Programming series I decided I needed to so some more study. So I have taken a break from posting to spend more time reading. I will finish my Re-Programming series, but it might be a while. [So the three of you who are anxiously waiting will need to relax.]

Over the years I have read vast quantities of how-to books for pastors and church leaders. There was a period in my life when I read every book and listened to every tape Rick Warren and John Maxwell produced on leadership, church ministry, and church growth. I have also read many books by George Barna and Thom Rainer. I have discarded most of what they taught because I believe their theology is predominantly Arminian which leads to an emphasis on human methods and strategies. I am continually amazed at how critical theology is to the philosophical and methodological development of individual church ministries!

I am currently being influenced by MacArthur, Piper, Mohler and Dever. I greatly appreciate their God-centered approach to ministry. Their theology has given them a solid foundation upon which to determine the best methods for ministry. With that being said I don't believe methods are the most critical factor for "success". I don't believe that De-Programming or Re-Programming the church is THE KEY to God-ordained revival or THE ANSWER to the problems of God's Church. Methods are important. They need to be discussed and evaluated, but they aren't the most important questions the church should be answering.

I started my reading project by reading John MacArthur's book "The Master's Plan for the Church". This book was written for the express purpose of compiling a "textbook that would consolidate the material [of the Shepherd's Conferences & Seminars] into a single resource...Most of the material in this book has appeared in print before. Parts 1, 2, and 3 are revised editions of study guides from series broadcast on the Grace to You radio network. The three series-The Anatomy of a Church, The Dynamic Church, and Qualities of an Excellent Servant-represent some of the most well-received material on church leadership we have offered."

I thoroughly enjoyed The Master's Plan for the Church! In the Introduction MacArthur sums up the difference between this book and other how-to books for pastors.

"Some contemporary church leaders fancy themselves businessmen, media figures, entertainers, psychologists, philosophers, or lawyers. Yet those notions contrast sharply with the symbolism Scripture employs to depict spiritual leaders...Our Lord's favorite metaphor for spiritual leadership, one He often used to describe Himself was that of a shepherd...A shepherd leads, feeds, nurtures, comforts, corrects, and protects...Church leadership is ministry, not management."
This is a book on spiritual shepherding written by a spiritual shepherd. There is hardly anything new in this book because it is firmly grounded in Scripture. There are no new techniques or strategies or methods, just strong biblical encouragement.

This Book has two strong emphases. 1) Know God and His Word and be able to clearly and consistently proclaim Him from the Scripture. Preach and teach all the time-you can never have enough preaching and teaching! MacArthur says, "Proclaiming the Word of God is a primary function of the church...The basic task of the church is to teach sound doctrine." 2) Have spiritually qualified men in leadership (elders & deacons). MacArthur says, "You cannot bypass the need for godly leadership and still receive God's blessing...He is to be a leader because he is a man of God. That is the beginning of effectiveness in the church...The primary ingredient in church leadership is holiness."

There are two must-read chapters in this book. Chapter 13 - Shepherding the Flock of God - was a tremendous study of sheep and shepherds. Appendix 1 - Answering the Key Questions About Elders - was a very strong, biblical case for elder rule. I haven't changed from a Congregational form of government yet, but MacArthur has some very strong points that I am continuing to process. These two chapters are worth the price of the book.

Although I agreed with almost everything in this book I offer one small criticism. (I hesitate to do this on the grounds that I am a complete nobody, but I am always happy to share my uneducated opinion.) MacArthur believes in building up families. He says, "The family is God's designated unit for passing righteousness on from one generation to the next (Deut. 6:7, 20-25)...We're committed to that at Grace Church; we help teach and disciple children and young people." Does part A go with Part B? Do you see the disconnect I am seeing? If "the family is God's designated unit for passing righteousness" than why aren't we doing more to equip parents to do that within the context of the family? He then asks the question, "Do you help other parents by teaching their children proper behavior?" He is seeking to make the point that we need to help parents. But wouldn't it be best to teach parents how to teach, disciple, and discipline their children, instead of "helping" them by doing their job for them?

Later on in the book MacArthur talks about devotion to the family. He states, "There was a time when the family functioned as a unit. Every member went to church together and even sat in the same pew every Sunday. Then as the church became program-oriented, everyone went off and did his own thing." Just when I thought we were on the same page and coming to the same conclusions, he says, "Therefore we must strive to develop solid marriages and family-oriented ministries by teaching husband to love their wives (Eph. 5:25), wives to submit to their husbands (5:22), children to obey their parents (6:1), and parents not to exasperate their children but to nurture them (6:4)." I completely agree with all four points, but didn't he forget the parents responsibility to "train" and "teach"? I know I am riding a personal hobby-horse here, but if men like John MacArthur are missing the connection why should I be surprised that few are agreeing with my conclusions?

I don't agree with anyone, even myself, 100% of the time, but I do wholeheartedly recommend this book! If you are a pastor, The Master's Plan for the Church is a must-read!

Wednesday, October 18

Sovereign Grace Ministries' Christmas CD

Sovereign Grace Ministries is putting out a Christmas CD called Savior: Celebrating the Mystery of God Become Man. Check out SaviorCD.com for more details. Also, for a sampling you can DL Hope Has Come (scroll down on the right hand side and click on the song title).

They have put out other CDs including my favorites--Valley of Vision, Worship God Live, & Songs for the Cross-Centered Life.

Soli Deo Gloria

Downloadable Christian Audio Books

I have recently run across some sites which can provide you with some helpful resources to listen to while you are driving, exercising or just in your study.

SonicFaith-Downloadable Christian Audio Books
They have a strong selection of English Bibles and of Christian fiction. They offer titles like Ted Dekker's House, Chris Tomlin's The Way I Was Made, & Bruce Wilkinson.

Check these guys out!

Christian Audio.com
They have a strong selection of books on doctrine like MacArthur's Ashamed of the Gospel or Sproul's Holiness of God. They also have John Piper's new book What Jesus Demands of the World. (HT: Timmy Brister)

Soli Deo Gloria

When Is Rebellion Right? An Open Discussion

Hoping this does not turn into a debate, I want to open the blog for a forum discussion in regards to this question:

When is rebellion against God-ordained authority right?

It may be helpful to all involved if we think of this question in two contexts:

1) In a marital or familial context.

2) In a governmental/citizen context (i.e., the Revolutionary War ... patriotism vs. rebellion).

This question is being asked in response to yesterday's post "How To Destroy Your Marriage, Family, and Church." So if you are looking for the context in regards to the above question, please read yesterday's post.

It may be helpful to keep these Scriptures in mind during this discussion:

Romans 13:1, "Let every person be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God."

Titus 3:1, "Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work ... "

1 Peter 2:13-15, "Be subject for the Lord's sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good. For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people."

Acts 5:29, "But Peter and the apostles answered, 'We must obey God rather than men.'"
As I stated in a comment to yesterday's post ... I am teachable on this subject, so fire away!

Augustine & Edwards on Sin

What man honestly aware of his own frailty can attribute any chastity or innocence to his own control, as if he has less need to love you because he does not need your pity as much as those whose sins you forgive when they return to you? Anyone called by you, who answers your call, who avoids the sins that I am remembering and confessing, should not mock me if my illness was healed by the same physician who kept him from falling sick--or, more properly, from falling into so deep a sickness as mine. He should love you not merely as much as I do, but more, when he sees that the one who has stripped me of my sin's symptons kept him free of such symptons. (St. Augustine [translated by Garry Wills] Confessions Book 2 Sin, Chapter II Pear Theft p. 36)
This is surely a great word of admonition for those of us raised in Christians homes who have never committed "the really bad sins." We have a testimony--God has saved us from those sins. This brings to mind one of Jonathan Edwards' Resolutions.
8. Resolved, To act, in all respects, both speaking and doing, as if nobody had been so vile as I, and as if I had committed the same sins, or had the same infirmities or failings as others; and that I will let the knowledge of their failings promote nothing but shame in myself, and prove only an occasion of my confessing my own sins and misery to God.
Soli Deo Gloria

A Must-Read Email Regarding Our North Korean Brethren

As a subscriber to The Voice Of The Martyrs newsletter, my heart is often emboldened through the courage of my brothers and sisters who are faithfully suffering because of their faith in Christ. Today is one of those days.

I received the following via email. I encourage all our readers to meditate upon these words, and to pray earnestly for our brothers and sisters under the radically fascist dictatorship of Kim Jong II. And as you pray for your fellow Christians' courage under fire ... pray for your own. We all are aware of the apathy and lethargy our freedoms breed in America's Christians.

God help us to learn much from our North Korean brothers and sisters.


"If you believe in God, you go to Heaven when you die. If you don't, you go to North Korea."
Pastor Lee, a former prisoner of North Korea

If you've been watching the news, you know President George W. Bush and other world leaders are now working through diplomatic channels to address the North Korean government and its people, led by Communist dictator Kim Jong Il. While we pray for the success of these negotiations and for a just peace agreement, VOM continues to present the only hope for true peace that exists for North Koreans: the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ.

There is a spiritual war taking place in North Korea as our enemy seeks to destroy the souls of North Korea's citizens. Millions have starved to death in the past 10 years. Following "the God of Heaven" is considered treason, punishable by imprisonment or even death.

Caught in the middle of this spiritual battle are our persecuted brothers and sisters, bearers of Light in a terribly dark country.

We invite you to stand with them, shining the light of truth in the darkness of North Korea. Much of The Voice of the Martyrs' work in North Korea cannot be discussed publicly. However,we can tell you that we are supporting the spread of the gospel, training leaders in the underground church and providing Scriptures to the people of North Korea. Your financial contributions make this vital work possible.

Please follow the link below to see how you can get involved and for a special offer on Soon Ok Lee's book, Eyes of the Tailless Animals: Prison Memoirs of a North Korean Woman. Also posted are links to a recent article by The Voice of the Martyrs and the horrific footage of how North Korea treats its "disobedient" citizens.

Join with us today in standing with our brothers and sisters in the spiritual battle for North Korea. Click here to learn more.

For those in bonds,

Tom White
Executive Director


P. S. -- It would do American Christians well to watch the execution video through the above link. Caution: viewer discretion is advised.

The Holy Spirit--Part 2-My Experience | Part 6

Fear of Subjectivity

Many conservative evangelicals and fundamentalist are afraid of anything subjective. But subjectivity is not bad if it is based on objective truth. Listen to the Apostle Paul, "The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God" (Romans 8:16). The phrase "with out spirit" is a simple dative in the Greek (tw pvuemati). In discussing this passage, Dan Wallace says,
At issue, grammatically, is whether the Spirit testifies [or with] our spirit (dat. of association), or whether he testifies alongside ofto our spirit (indirect object) that we are God's children. . . . If the latter, the believer receives the testimony and hence is assured of salvation via the inner witness of the Spirit.
The implication of this for one's soteriology are profound: The objective data [i.e., praying a prayer, "accepting Jesus," etc.], as helpful as they are, cannot by themselves provide assurance of salvation; the believer also needs (and receives!) an exisential, ongoing encounter with God's spirit in order to gain that familial comfort (Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics 160, 161).
The Spirit is testifying to us and confirming our salvation in our hearts. We can read "For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For 'everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved,' " and still doubt our salvation. The objective truth is there: Call and the Lord will save. Have you called? Certainly! Then are you saved? The objective truth shouts, "Yes!" But that is not enough Paul says the Holy Spirit confirms this. If truly saved, he is the one who changed your heart and he is the one who will assure you that you are saved.

Bad Argument

There is a commonly made bad arguments against this type of subjective truth. I have heard people equate subjective assurance, illumination, and leading with Scripture revelation. So in essence, the argument goes something like: "You believe God still talks subjectively somehow through the Spirit, then everything said should be written down." Bogus!

Has everything that God said in the OT and NT been written down? No. Paul and John both saw and heard things they could not write down. There were a myriad of prophets in the OT receiving Word from the Lord whose "books" and offices are mentioned in Kings and Chronicles, but whose books and words are not extant. Were they really Words from the Lord? Sure, but that does not mean they were meant to be preserved as Scripture. (I am not arguing that the OT prophetic office is still available today, nor that there are those who speak with the same authority as Isaiah or Jeremiah).

A Road Map: There & Back Again

I have some major concerns with the Charismatic fringe and I think the term Charismatic has some baggage because of the abuses by many who hold that title. The term continuationist may be better, but in my opinion some further development and clarification is needed to help weed out some of the baggage that the Charismatic movement has.

Right now, I would assert that the gifts can be used today, but I am wary of two things. First, I think too much emphasis is placed on tongues. Having tongues as a requirement does not hold water with me right now. Paul seems to say prophecy is "better" (i.e., more edifying) and more than either of those love is best of all. Second, I will readily admit Paul says to seek the gifts in certain passages, but I'm also concerned about ministries who focus too much on the spiritual gifts neglecting the work of Christ on the cross. That's the focus. The objective truth of Christ's death and what it's accomplished for us. Without that foundation the spiritual gifts go wild. The foundation must be the cross and what it's accomplished and the gifts must function to spread the Gospel, build the church, etc.

During this time of study, I may change my mind. That's the whole point of study, but right now this is where I'm at. I will be addressing specific areas of concern and question soon. And will hopefully interact with some of Adrian's articles on this topic. Forthcoming, will be an historical survey of the gifts in the history of the church.

Soli Deo Gloria